Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort focused on opportunities for economic growth and efforts to consolidate government services in his second annual State of the County address Friday morning.
Speaking to a crowd of roughly 100 people in the clubhouse at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, Ossenfort, who took office in January 2014, outlined his priorities for the coming year while touting previous achievements, including repairs to the county’s aging infrastructure while closing the budget deficit.
“In the first year of the new government we adopted an on-time and unanimously approved budget,” Ossenfort said. “We closed the budget deficit by about $1.1 million, and we reduced our reliance on fund reserves to balance the budget.”
However, Ossenfort didn’t address a failed attempt to bring a casino to the county. A casino developer and operator showed interest in the region last summer, but after failing to complete the casino application, the state Gaming Commission dismissed their proposal.
In an attempt to solicit private- and public-sector investment, Ossenfort said county officials will work toward making the regional business park in Johnstown and a 500-acre parcel near Exit 27 of the New York State Thruway shovel-ready.
“We are going to market these two sites as we have been, and hopefully, we get some good results,” Ossenfort said.
Amsterdam Printing and Litho announced Thursday it will remain in Amsterdam. Ossenfort said when he first heard the company was thinking of leaving the area, he “had a lump in his throat.”
“Can you imagine what kind of impact 365 jobs leaving the area would do to our economy?” he said. “We’d survive, we’d get through it, but it would have been tough.”
Ossenfort lauded the work of county Economic Development Director Ken Rose, saying “he did great work to keep the company in Amsterdam.”
With an eye on the county’s aging population, Ossenfort said the proposed Concordia Senior Community in Amsterdam will help an underserved portion of the community.
“This project doesn’t just involve the 200 construction jobs, 100 permanent jobs or $30 million in private-sector investment,” Ossenfort. “People can stay close to home with loved ones in what is often a very difficult time.”
Though he couldn’t speak in great detail, Ossenfort said the public should “stay tuned” for an announcement about a public-private partnership to expand opportunities at business parks in the county.
Showing how the county is working to consolidate services, Ossenfort displayed a rendering of the new public safety facility that will be constructed near the county Sheriff’s Office on Route 5S.
“We expect to break ground sometime in the spring, and if all goes well, we will have a grand opening in the fall,” the county executive said. “We have only been in office for 14 months, and we are moving ahead with this reorganization and consolidation plan. This will save taxpayers dollars over the long run.”
Ossenfort called discussions between himself and the Legislature over the second phase of restructuring the county’s office building “knockdown, drag-out brawls.” Ossenfort said the county office building on Broadway in Fonda has numerous problems, chief among them the lack of parking and the aging heating and cooling system in the building.
“Whether we remodel or expand at that site, we have had talks about consolidating the campus with the sheriff’s office,” he said. “We are going to have those discussions over the next year.”
As mandated by state government, Montgomery County has developed a government efficiency and shared services plan, according to Ossenfort. He added that roughly 70 percent of county residents receiving Department of Social Services aid live in Amsterdam.
“We are opening up a satellite office in Amsterdam in March,” he said, noting DSS headquarters is now in Fonda. “When you find out that 70 percent of those clients are in one place and you are in another place, it might make sense to get a little closer.”
District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz said the Legislature has been able to accomplish a lot in only 14 months.
“We have been able to address things that have fallen by the wayside for decades,” he said. “We have been able to expand services while cutting the budget deficit. That is always a good thing.”